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Practical information

Climate

Overall, Ireland has a mild, but changeable, Oceanic climate with few extremes. The climate is typically insular, and as a result of the moderating moist winds which ordinarily prevail from the South-Western Atlantic, it is temperate, avoiding the extremes in temperature of many other areas in the world at similar latitudes. Precipitation falls throughout the year, but is light overall, particularly in the east. The west, however, tends to be wetter on average and prone to the full force of Atlantic storms, more especially in the late autumn and winter months, which occasionally bring destructive winds and high rainfall totals to these areas, as well as snow and hail. Inland areas are warmer in summer, and colder in winter – there are usually around 40 days of below freezing temperatures (0 °C/32 °F) at inland weather stations, but only 10 days at coastal stations. Ireland is sometimes affected by heat waves, most recently 1995, 2005 and 2006.

Geography

Ireland is the third largest island in Europe and the twentieth largest in the world. It lies to the north-west of continental Europe and it is surrounded by hundreds of islands and islets. The main geographical features of Ireland are low central plains surrounded by a ring of coastal mountains. The highest peak is Carrauntoohil (Irish: Corrán Tuathail) and which is 1041 m above sea-level. The western coastline is rugged with many islands, peninsulas and headlands. The island is bisected by the river Shannon which is the longest river in Ireland and flows south from County Cavan  in the north to meet the Atlantic just south of Limerick. There are a number of sizable lakes along Ireland’s rivers, with Lough Neagh being the largest. The island’s lush vegetation, a product of its mild climate and frequent but soft rainfall, earns it the nickname “Emerald Isle”. The island’s area is 84,412 km².

Currency

Ireland’s currency is Euro. Euro notes come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500. It is very often difficult to get change for €500.00. Most major currencies and brands of traveller’s cheque are accepted in Ireland, but carrying them in pounds sterling has the advantage that in Northern Ireland or Britain you can change them without exchange loss or commission. Banks generally give the best exchange rates, but change bureaus are open longer hours. Many post offices offer currency-exchange facilities and they’re open on Saturday mornings.

Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. There are many ATMs but it’s always a good idea to carry some cash with you. Tipping is becoming more common than it once was, but is still not as prevalent as in the USA or the rest of Europe. If a restaurant adds a service charge (usually 15%) no additional tip is required. If not, most people tip around 10% of the bill for waiting staff and round up taxi fares. For hotel porters €1.00 per bag is acceptable.

Politics

Politically, the state of Ireland (or the Republic of Ireland) covers five-sixth of the island, with Northern Ireland covering the remainder in the north-east. The Republic of Ireland is a sovereign state and its capital is Dublin. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and its capital is Belfast.

The population of the island is slightly over six million (2007), with 4.4 million in the Republic of Ireland and an estimated 1.75 million in Northern Ireland. This is a significant increase from a modern historical low in the 1960s, but still much lower than the peak population of over 8 million in the early 19th century, prior to the Great Famine of the 1840s.

Ireland is divided into four provinces, Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht, and in 32 counties. 26 counties are in the Republic of Ireland while the remaining are in Northern Ireland. There is no correspondance between Ulster and Northern Ireland as three counties of Ulster (Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan) are patrt of the Republic. Nonetheless ‘Ulster’ is used in a colloquial form asa synonym for Northern Ireland.

With a few notable exceptions, the island operates as a single unit in all major religious denominations and in many economic fields despite using two different currencies. There are also significant all-island dimensions to sports such as rugby, cricket or hockey. Other forms of all-Ireland governance concern agriculture, environment, transport and tourism. The most important political parties are Sinn Féin, the Green Party and the conservative party Fianna Fáil.

Business and shop opening hours

In both the Republic and Northern Ireland shop opening hours are approximately 9am to 6pm Monday to Saturday. Many places in towns stay open until 8pm or later on Thursdays and Fridays and most are open on Sundays from noon to 6pm.

In the Republic, particularly in small cities, there are later opening and closing times. In rural areas you can generally find someone to sell you groceries at any reasonable hour, even if they have to open their shop to do it – and very often the village shop doubles as the local pub. On the main public holidays , outside the cities virtually everything will be closed except the garages and pubs. Should St Patrick’s Day or Orange Day happen to fall on a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday is carried over to the Monday.

Opening and closing time of museums, archeological sites and other sites of interest do not follow any scheme. The bigger attractions will normally be open throughout the day, while smaller places may open only in the afternoon. Many sites away from the main tourist trails, especially houses or castles which are also private homes, are open only during the peak summer months.

Churches, at least if they’re still in use, are almost always open, and if they’re locked there’s usually someone living nearby who will have the keys; otherwise, opening times will follow religious activity.

Practical Information about Electricity

Power supply in Ireland is different from the USA and plugs and sockets are different from those used in both Europe and USA.  In Ireland, voltage is 230v, frequency 50mhz and plugs/sockets have 3 square pins.

Sample Price Guide

litre of milk €0.95
can of soft drink €1.50
pint of Guinness €4.50
cup of coffee €2.00
an umbrella €5.00
movie ticket €8.50
litre of petrol €1.25
souvenir t-shirt €18.00
street snack €5.00